The prolonged period of social distancing and self-isolation will have mental health ramifications which the Government must take this into account as part of its response to Covid-19.
This is the view of the Social Democrats Galway City East councillor Owen Hanley, who has praised the public efforts to meet the increasing Government restrictions on movement and interaction. "Most people are stepping up to the plate and making big changes to their lives," he said, "but with these changes will come the need to properly prioritise mental health."
However, this week has seen an upsurge in local politicians and TDs criticising people for not doing enough to maintain social distancing, while the five Fianna Fáil city councillors have called on City Hall to close the Salthill Promenade and Eyre Square to the public.
'Mental Health is precious, now, just as ever'
Cllr Hanley has taken a less punitive approach, noting that people are "making huge sacrifices to better the physical health of our neighbours, communities, and ourselves". He has warned though, that prolonged periods of social distancing and self-isolation will impact on people's mental health - especially the longer the restrictions continue, and if they are extended and increased.
"If we are to enter into a prolonged period of restrictions, the delivery of mental health care must be viewed as an essential service by the Government," he said. "Mental Health is precious, now, just as ever."
Cllr Hanley said cuts in the Government Budget for 2021, following the effects of COVID-19, are to be expected, but that cuts to mental health services cannot be afforded.
"We need advocates for genuine mental health funding to be prepared to make this argument loud and clear," he said. "I call on the Government to closely work with charity and volunteer organisations to make sure their vital helplines remain open to those in need. For many, these are going to be a lifeline in desperate times."